Student Achievement at UNC Asheville

As the only dedicated liberal arts institution in the University of North Carolina system, UNC Asheville provides students with a deeply transformative education that prepares graduates, not only for secure and meaningful employment in a chosen career, but also for thoughtful participation in the global community.

Just this academic year alone the University received national recognition for its academic programs and outcomes, student access and affordability, faculty research and scholarship, and service to both the local community and developing nations.

U.S. News and World Report ranked UNC Asheville as the nation’s eighth best public liberal arts college this year, and also included the University on its list of the top ten national liberal arts colleges, private and public, “where the faculty has an unusually strong commitment to undergraduate teaching.” UNC Asheville is the only public university on this exclusive list.

Princeton Review ranked UNC Asheville as the nation’s best school “for making an impact” in its Colleges that Pay You Back publication, concluding that UNC Asheville students excel in community service, student government, sustainability, and on-campus student engagement, while also pursuing careers with high job meaning following graduation.

UNC Asheville has also been named to the very select list of “Best Buy” universities in the 2016 edition of the Fiske Guide to Colleges.  Additionally, for the twelfth consecutive year, the University’s Environmental Studies Program was named to the Fiske Guide list of pre-professional programs with unusual strength in preparing students for careers.

Finally, the Peace Corps ranks UNC Asheville as one of the top-producing colleges for alumni now serving as volunteers in the organization. The university is number 11 among small schools in the nation.

Statistics on Student Achievement

In accordance with federal law and regional accreditation standards, UNC Asheville sets overall goals for student achievement.  Detailed information on the current goals, and on how the University has performed relative to those goals in the last three years, is provided below.  In most cases, numeric targets were decided upon after comparing UNC Asheville to fellow institutions in the UNC System and to national peers in the Council of Public Liberal Arts Colleges (COPLAC).

Student-Faculty Interactions

UNC Asheville’s commitment to student achievement begins with the opportunities it provides its students to learn in close interaction with qualified faculty who excel at teaching.

Student-Faculty Interactions 2013 2014 2015 Avg. Target
Student-to-Faculty Ratio 14:1 14:1 14:1 14:1 <=15:1
% Classes with < 20 Students 50% 50% 50% 50% >=50%
% Classes with >50 Students 2% 2% 1% 2% <=2%
% Full-Time to All FTE Faculty 92% 89% 87% 89% >=85%

The University is a leader both within the UNC system and among public liberal arts colleges nationally in its low ratio of students to faculty, in its small class sizes, and in the percentage of its courses taught by full-time permanent faculty (rather than by part-time instructors or graduate students).

Academic Accomplishments

UNC Asheville students perform at high levels by several measures of academic performance:

Academic Accomplishments 2013 2014 2015 Avg. Target
% Courses Completed Satisfactorily1 87% 89% 89% 88% >=85%
Collegiate Learning Assessment Percentile Rank -- -- 95% 95% >=90%
% Passing Teacher Licensure Exams 100% 97% -- 99% >=90%

The University participates in the Collegiate Learning Assessment (CLA) once every three years as a means of assesssing how well seniors have achieved mastery in core learning outcomes such as written communication, critical thinking, and scientific and quantitative literacy. UNC Asheville scored in the top 5% of all colleges and universities nationally in the 2015 administration of the CLA.

Learning Outside the Classroom

UNC Asheville students are more likely than their COPLAC and UNC System peers to participate in service learning, undergraduate research, study abroad, internships, and other high-impact learning opportunities that are strongly predictive of academic and career success.2 Students are encouraged to take part in at least one, and ideally in two or more, of these opportunities before they graduate.

Learning Outside the Classroom 2013 2014 2015 Avg. Target
Undergraduate Research 68% 69% 68% 68% --
Service Learning 24% 35% 39% 33% --
Study Abroad 26% 27% 20% 24% --
Internships 18% 35% 38% 30% --
At Least One High Impact Learning Experience 83% 87% 90% 87% >=75%
Two Or More High Impact Learning Experiences 41% 57% 54% 51% >=50%

68% of first-time baccalaureate students in the most recent graduating class participated in an undergraduate research or creative project during their years at UNC Asheville. The University has long been a national leader in undergraduate research, hosting not only the inaugural National Conference on Undergraduate Research (NCUR) in 1987 but also many subsequent NCUR conferences, including one this past spring.

A very high percentage of these students – 90% in the most recent graduating class -- participate in at least one high-impact learning practice during their time on campus. More than 50% participate in two or more such learning opportunities before graduation.

Persistence to Graduation

As a member of the UNC system, UNC Asheville admits: (i) students who intend both to begin and to complete their degree program at the University; (ii) students who plan to begin their studies at UNC Asheville but then to transfer to a degree program at another UNC institution; and (iii) students who transfer from another institution with the intention to graduate from UNC Asheville. Accordingly, the University has set retention and graduation targets that cover all three of these populations.

Full-Time Freshmen Entering Fall Term 2013 2014 2015 Avg. Target
Average Years to Graduate from UNC Asheville 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 <= 4.5
% Returning for Second Year of Study in UNC System 85% 81% 84% 83% >=85%
% Returning for Second Year of Study at UNC Asheville 80% 77% 79% 79% >=80%
% Graduating from UNC System in Six Years or Less 69% 71% 67% 69% >=70%
% Graduating from UNC Asheville in Six Years or Less 59% 64% 60% 61% >=65%
Full-Time Junior Transfers Entering Fall Term 2013 2014 2015 Avg. Target
Average Years to Graduate from UNC Asheville 2.8 2.7 2.6 2.7 <=2.5
% Returning for Second Year of Study in UNC System 85% 84% 74% 81% >=80%
% Graduating from UNC Asheville in Three Years of Less 55% 51% 56% 54% >=65%

While retention and graduation rates are at or near most of the University’s goals for student persistence and success, efforts are underway to improve the on-campus graduation rates for both freshmen and transfer students.

First Career Destinations

UNC Asheville has recently begun a data collection effort that, beginning in 2017, will allow it to more accurately track first career destinations of UNC Asheville graduates and compare their success rates to national peers.The University anticipates that 90% of more of future bachelor’s degree recipients will meet their goals for a first job or for enrollment in graduate or professional study within one year of graduation.

1A course completed satisfactorily is one which the student completes (as opposed to withdrawing prior to completion) with a grade of C or higher.

2As demonstrated by the 2015 version of the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE). NSSE asks seniors about their participation in six high-impact practices: learning communities, service-learning, research with faculty, internships or field experiences, study abroad, and a culminating senior experience.  2015 participation rates in high-impact learning opportunities by UNC Asheville seniors exceeded both the COPLAC and the UNC System average rate of senior participation.

3UNC Asheville has begun participating in the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) First Destinations Survey. Its initial 2014-15 survey results resemble closely those of all baccalaureate colleges and universities participating in the survey. It is currently designing an Alumni Survey that will allow it to track career outcomes beyond one year after graduation.